You shouldn’t purchase your own town, even for $800k

If you had a little extra cash, you might think about purchasing your own town. Scenic, South Dakota is available for $800,000:

So, what exactly do you get for your $800k? Quite a lot, actually. You’ll get a dance hall, a saloon, two jails, a train depot, two stores, and some more empty buildings…

True, the town won’t be mistaken for New York or even Green Acres. However, based on the pictures, it does have a certain Old West charm. One can almost picture John Wayne ambling down the street. It does look like a ghost town–and with fewer than 10 residents, it’s mighty close to becoming one.

But, before you rush to purchase this hotspot, you might want to consider the track record of those who purchase towns:

This isn’t the first time an entire town has gone up for sale. Some may remember actress Kim Basinger’s ill-fated purchase of Braselton, Georgia for $20 million. Basinger planned to turn the town into a tourist draw, complete with film festival. But things didn’t quite work out as she planned. She was later forced to sell the town at a huge loss due to financial problems of her own.

And Basinger isn’t alone. As an article from MSN points out, many have purchased towns only to see that the dream of “owning their own zip code” turn into a nightmare. It’s one thing to be a landlord and have to fix a renter’s leaky faucet. It’s another to be responsible for an entire town of faucets (and toilets, and electricity, and crime prevention, and, and, and…)

This article makes owning a town sound difficult. While this story suggests owners get tripped up by infrastructure, I would think the interactions with residents and other people might even be more problematic. Think back to the experience of company towns in America: places like Pullman, Illinois may have been efficient (and profitable?) but eventually didn’t work. Even in a small place like Scenic, the owner would have to interact with existing residents and take full responsibility for decisions.

Perhaps the gameplay of SimCity would help illustrate the issue: in the early days of the game, it was easy to grow a community and Simcity 2000 offered well-known cheat codes that allowed the mayor to do whatever you want (with unlimited money). But with more recent iterations of the game, it is easier to get bogged down in real matters: paying for infrastructure like roads and water and dealing with the concerns of your citizens and advisers. In the end, even small communities have a lot to take care of in order to get up and running and the services and amenities (and taxes/fees) have to be agreeable to residents.

Are there any “successful” examples of wealthy individuals purchasing a town and maintaining or improving the community? Are there any management companies that would handle these responsibilities for a wealthy owner?

2 thoughts on “You shouldn’t purchase your own town, even for $800k

  1. Pingback: Exploited workers: why Apple and other companies will not move manufacturing jobs back to the US | Legally Sociable

  2. Pingback: Wealthy people can just buy a town, Mark Cuban edition | Legally Sociable

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